“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”
(Deuteronomy 31 : 8)
At least 18 staffers from the International Assistance Mission (IAM) office in Ghor province, central Afghanistan were detained by the Taliban in September. According to a government source, the Taliban’s intelligence agency conducted two separate raids on 3 and 13 September as part of an ongoing crackdown on international aid agencies. All of the staffers, including a female American surgeon, are still being detained in Kabul.
IAM stated that they were unaware of the circumstances that led to the raid and were petitioning the government and working with the United Nations and Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development for the release of their workers.
“The well-being and security of our colleagues are paramount to us, and we are doing everything possible to ensure their safety and secure their swift release,” stated IAM.
The Taliban’s provincial government spokesman, Abdul Wahid Hamas, was quoted in local media as saying that the agency staff, including several women, had been taken into custody based on the charge of “propagating and promoting Christianity” in Afghanistan. Local reports said agents from the Taliban’s intelligence agency had a list of names when they raided the premises.
IAM has refuted the charges and assures that they operate the aid agency within the governing laws of the country and do not use it to further a particular political or religious standpoint.
“All our staff abide by the laws of Afghanistan. We are in a state of shock. We are accused of something I never imagined. We are just waiting to see what happens next,” said an IAM worker.
In the past two years, since the withdrawal of US forces and the fall of the US-backed Afghan government, the Taliban has reimposed Sharia (Islamic law), and severely restricted the rights and freedoms of women in the country. They have also cracked down on the operations of international aid agencies, despite an increasingly concerning humanitarian situation. The spread of Christianity is a violation of the Taliban’s strict regulations and can be punished under strict interpretations of Sharia in Afghanistan.
Last December, the Taliban outlawed women from working for domestic and foreign aid agencies, significantly complicating their efforts to assist locals with nutrition, health care, and education, as they had traditionally employed many local women.
Registered in Switzerland, IAM has been operating in Afghanistan since 1966 and helped more than 4 million Afghans. They claim to have spent over US$40 million in the last decade alone “on initiatives aimed at improving healthcare, education, and community development throughout Afghanistan”. In August 2010, 10 IAM team members were murdered by gunmen as they returned from Badakhshan province, northeastern Afghanistan, where they had been providing healthcare.
Home Group Prayer
We pray for your protection over all your faithful servants, especially these women who have been detained at this time. We ask that you will watch over them, keep them from any harm, and bring them safely and swiftly back to their families. Give them a strong sense of your comforting presence and keep them steadfast in their faith.
We thank you for the work of all Christians in Afghanistan. We thank you that your great love inspires them to help others in need, despite the dangers and risks. Watch over and protect them all as they strive to glorify you through their work.
And we pray for the country of Afghanistan and all its people. We ask that you would reveal yourself to them more and more, and guide them to know and love you as the one true God. We pray for peaceful change and an end to the oppressive and dark rule of those currently in power.